He meant it, Julia thought in an agony of despair, as she ran from St. Stephens and from Simon, past verdant hedgerows and fields, unseeing to her home. He meant it when he said he would not acknowledge his love for her, would not court her or marry her. All for her own good.
She ran, though she had to press one slim hand to a stitch in her side, ran until she stood before her parents on the stone flagged terrace on the south side of Edenton Park.
"Simon is returned," she gasped out. "I met him quite by surprise in the church. He...I...he loves me."
Lady Edenton laid aside her book and the baron his newspaper with precision and without haste.
"How can you know this?" her mother asked her calm face very still.
"He did not speak of it, but he could not conceal it; I think he could conceal nothing from me. He kissed me. He has lost an arm." She saw by the quick glance her parents exchanged that they had had knowledge that she had not. "You knew. You knew and did not tell me. How was I to discover it? Did you know that he would arrive this week? Was that to be kept from me as well? What other decisions have been made for me?"
"You are intemperate, Julia. Calm yourself." Her father was ever pacific and collected and disliked thoughtless impetuosity.
"I shall not! He says he will not burden -- burden -- me with a cripple. As if Simon Mancroft- Martley could ever be a burden to me. I love him, I love him." She dropped suddenly into a chair, and covered her face with her slender hands.
Her father rose and departed the terrace, his usually serene countenance disturbed, his dislike of the emotional furor apparent.
"My dear, you must not upset yourself so," her mother said. "Simon has to rest and recover himself. It will be a drastic adjustment for him. Taking up his old life after five years away would be challenge enough, but lacking an arm, well..."
"I cannot bring myself to worry about his arm. He is still Simon; the lost arm does not alter who he is."
"He is crippled, my love."
"He can still think, speak, move."
"He is crippled. We would not have you attached to less than a whole man. You are precious to us and deserving of the very best that life can offer."
"Simon is the best -- even with but one arm."
"Julia, even disregarding those larger issues which may arise from Simon's new disability, you must consider that his injury may make him physically repulsive."
"He looked wonderful to me."
Her mother coloured faintly and she said with discomfort, "His injury, his scars would be horrifying for a gently bred young lady such as yourself."
"I--do not--care about his scars," Julia said, through clenched teeth. "I would love him if he were green with yellow spots and had no arms at all."
"Julia!" Her mother rose in indignation. "That is enough, more than enough; it is beyond the pale of acceptability. You will let Simon recover from his injuries, you will neither pursue nor pester him with your affection. We have obviously given you a great deal more independence than has been good for you. You must abandon your extravagant notions of freedom. And you will abandon your desire to wed Simon, for your father and I have discussed the matter, and you shall not marry him. Be so goo